The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Hay Fever” was written in the author’s maturity, though not in his old age. It demonstrates that A. D. Hope, although he is sometimes considered primarily an imitator of eighteenth century poetic technique and a facile satirist, was also an innovator in structure and a lyricist at heart. While he was perhaps indebted to Alexander Pope and Jonathan Swift in attitude, he was not in method, for he took numerous liberties in both structure and content that they would not have approved. In place of regular stanzas, the closed couplet, and iambic pentameter, Hope freely intermixed stanza and line lengths and uses iambs, dactyls, trochees, and anapests in lines that vary in length from tetrameters to alexandrines; further, he made use of both single and double rhyme in alternating lines or in lines widely separated; the four stanzas of this poem are in eleven, thirteen, eight, and eleven lines. In fact, this poem shows Hope in a somewhat uncharacteristic light, for he was generally observant of the niceties of Augustan poetic technique.

The poem opens with the general observation that “Time,” personified as the grim reaper with scythe in hand (a commonplace in art of the Western world as well as in end-of-the-year cartoons), is a mature, skilled workman who is ever alert and at his task of claiming lives, usually without discrimination. The poet expresses his relief that it is not yet his turn to die (though he is “Waiting my turn as he swings”), and then he recalls how he himself...

(The entire section is 614 words.)